PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Transportation has landed a $65 million federal grant to fund the repair and redesign of Route 146 in northern Rhode Island, the state’s congressional delegation announced Tuesday.
The Trump administration awarded the money through an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America Grant, a program created by Congress in the 2015 FAST Act. The INFRA grant program was modeled in part on legislation advocated by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that he originally proposed as the Projects of National and Regional Significance Program.
Route 146 connects Providence to Worcester, with an estimated 171,000 vehicles traveling along the roadway each day. The R.I. Department of Transportation originally applied for a $90 million INFRA grant to pay for the Route 146 work, which had bipartisan support from state and local elected officials in the area. The entire cost of the project is estimated at $150 million.
In addition to about eight miles of repaving, RIDOT’s application calls for replacing or repairing three bridges along the roadway, reconfiguring the Sayles Hill Road interchange, eliminating a weave at the intersection with Route 99, and replacing a U-turn ramp.
Construction is currently scheduled to begin in late 2021.
“I helped create the INFRA program with major, once-in-a-generation projects like this one in mind,” Whitehouse, a third-term Democrat, said in a statement. “Route 146, with all of its bumps and quirks, is the main thoroughfare for Rhode Islanders who live in the northern part of the state. I’m thrilled that we have the funds in hand to create good jobs upgrading Route 146 with new bridges, a modern design, and miles of fresh pavement.”
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s transportation panel, and Congressman David Cicilline, a member of House Democratic leadership, both said they advocated for the Route 146 project directly with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
“This project will fix a critical interchange that serves Providence, Lincoln, and North Smithfield,” Cicilline said.
“Huge news for Northern Rhode Island,” added state Rep. Brian Newberry, a Republican who represents North Smithfield.
RIDOT Director Peter Alviti hailed the announcement and thanked the congressional delegation for its efforts in Washington. The Route 146 INFRA grant follows a similar-sized $60 million grant from the same program that Rhode Island received last fall to upgrade the I-95 North Providence Viaduct.
“This $65 million grant is the largest we have ever received,” he said. “It is a tremendous, tremendous help to us as we strive to provide the kind of roadways that will keep travelers safe, get them to work on time, deliver them to schools and recreation and then safely home again.”
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook